Ann Prager: My name is Ann Prager and I did that painting over there with the red sun, and I think what’s behind that is, it sort of looks like Brookline, and it feels safe. And I think I titled it, “Just Look out the Window,” because I find—I’m 80 years old—in my apartment in Brookline, and it feels safe, but the sky represents what’s happening beyond my bubble, and how frightening it is.
Dorothy Englander: I’m Dorothy Englander, and I have family living here, one of my sons. I liked your premise for the show and I interpreted it in my own way. It implied that political points would be okay, and I had been working in abstract collage for several months using my own watercolor scraps. The theme for them was a fear of the absurd and that happened accidentally. Anyway, I made those forms and the titles came later. Both imply a sort of, well, absurdity. I had seen the film 1984 not too long ago, and it just reminded me of things happening recently, in the past year, and I think my art took a turn because of it.
Camilo: Just wanted to mention, that I was given the theme. Brookline Arts Center decided Red, White + Blue, and I think I openly interpreted it.
Martin R. Anderson: Well, I’m Martin R. Anderson and I took the theme very literally! I said “Oh my God, it’s going to be red, white, and blue.” I was just telling Lonnie, I started out as a child wanting to be an architect. Didn’t happen, my math skills were poor and I couldn’t get into architecture school. I went into a number of careers and I am now back working with wood and found materials and geometry and recognizing that making shapes and forms is a form of…personal salvation. It kind of represents some sort of organization.
Camilo: Yes, there’s always a need to place yourself within a space. I had to sort of adapt to the space, it’s kind of an interesting space. Like here, this is actually a workroom, so you can’t always have the works out when kids or the audience are here learning how to make art, but the works themselves serve as inspiration.
Catherine Melrose: I’m Catherine Melrose and my son, he’s a graduate student at LSU, his photography is upstairs, the trio. And his theme for his project for last semester was based on Friday Night Lights so he traveled all over Louisiana and attended games. He played sports in high school and now he’s an MFA student.
Tara Fadenrecht: Hi, I’m Tara Fadenrecht and my photo is the one just outside with the Clown. That is my alter ego, his name is Duh Bo$s, and I’ve been working with him for about five years. Although he has a lot of, um, tendencies, in common with our current president, he’s actually more of an amalgamation of both international and domestic politicians and people in power. I really enjoy consuming propaganda so…
Camilo: There’s a long history of that! Even within something as old as Russian Deconstructivism, being part of a cultural impetus to control the media. I mean, I think there is a fair amount of that still going on. At first they were commenting on it, and then they became co-opted by the government. They became part of it. So, that can happen pretty easily.
Lior Neiger: Hi, I’m Lior Neiger. My piece is the blue sky, the statue of Columbus in Boston. It’s about him, and his presence in these days, and the mixed feelings people have about this person and this history, and so on. I decided to call this painting “Entry Denied,” imagining, when you look at the painting and you see these little things on the bottom that you can’t quite make out; it could be an entryway, a passport control, you see a little American flag. Sort of imagining, what if he would have come here and been denied by the Native Americans. Someone also commented, he could be the guy sort of standing there denying entry.
Camilo: Yeah, it’s interesting because I already knew of this painting. So, you guys know, when I am going through the jurying process I don’t get names. But I have a sort of crazy memory, and Lior’s work I had seen about a year ago maybe. When I started looking at pieces for Red, White + Blue, I was really trying to capture the tenor—the beautiful, diverse tenor—that is the USA. After I got all the works, it felt essential to go uber salon style with it. I chose a lot of work. Then I looked for balance; I thought, okay, we need male, female, and then of course mediums. Painting, photography, sculptures—surprisingly no video was submitted—but the different ways the audience attenuates work is important to think of. There are different ways of learning, which is key for a group exhibition.
But back to Lior’s piece, to think about it as a Dominican, where Columbus actually landed—in the Caribbean—it was really important to keep that in the conversation. Because that was the onset of conquest in “America.” And so that leads to the conversation of what Red White and Blue really represents.
The depiction of the flag was rampant; I mean there were so many flags submitted. I think I might have only chosen one or two. For example, this photograph on the wall, by Michael Zeis, is one of the few flags I ended up including. To me, his piece is not necessarily a depiction of detritus. To me, that means that this flag has been through many seasons, and time and history are very important to how an object is perceived by a culture, by an audience. So I mean, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing when it’s tattered. It just shows…experience.
Also, a salon style exhibition is interesting because it’s also my opportunity to have the pieces talk to each other, especially in that front wall gallery space. I think I might have scared the staff a little bit with my plans for that wall. I used InDesign to layout all the pieces the way I think they should go on the wall, took into consideration the dimensions, where the lights were, and even where the outlets were, in order to figure it out. The other walls were, as artists like to say, “intuitive.” In this room, Studio 1, I thought about the kids that are usually here and tried to display different forms of art making, for their benefit.
Dorothy Englander: How many states were represented among the artists?
Lauren Riviello: I believe it is was ten to fifteen states. A lot of artists did submit from Massachusetts, but we also have artists from Oregon, California, Texas, Tennessee, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut…
Dorothy Englander: I just came from New York, I’m from Albany New York.
Camilo: Oh, I went to Skidmore.
Dorothy Englander: I did, too!
Camilo: I’m actually on the national advisory council for the Tang Teaching Museum there. I studied Art History at Skidmore and then while working I got my masters working in museum studies at Harvard, and in the meantime I got asked “Oh, Camilo do you want to work on this project, do you want to be on this committee, etc.” I’m also on the advisory board at the ICA here in Boston. I’ve also worked at the List Visual Arts Center.
It’s important to stay in touch, you know? When I first got here, I went to MIT’s arts center because I knew Jane Farver; I had been an intern of hers when she worked at the Queens Museum in New York, she was a director there. It’s a network! In order for your objects to make it out there you kind of have to talk to a lot of different people. Framers, curators, scientists, military folk! There are many military museums — Lonnie, especially with you having that history. I think that in order to contribute to culture, you kind of have to get it out there.
Looking at art today, I think New York has lost a lot of its transgression in terms of its contemporary art. It is still the center of art for the US, but in terms of the actual art being shown, it’s gotten so commercialized. I mean, do you remember going to a gallery in SoHo and there would be a person with green hair behind the counter, and it was fine! Now, it’s very prim and proper and, unless you’re spending a lot of money, you’re not getting any sort of attention. There is barely any dialogue in the gallery presentation systems, but in the conferences and talks and symposiums, there is a lot more because people want to get to that conversation. Boston has an amazing array of conferences. I mean, you can literally go to talks on the daily. Whenever that information is shared, it really helps artists.
Dorothy Englander: What’s your opinion on this influence of the Internet on art and the art world today?
Camilo: It’s just another medium. At one point it was the photograph, at one point it was slides. Now it’s websites, now it’s JPEGs. It’s gotten a lot faster but at the same time, there are a lot more people on the planet. Even from ten years ago! I still do know what the major galleries and major institutions are, but it’s gotten much wider. It’s flattened the playing field in a way but it’s also restricted certain things. For example, not everyone can afford to get great documentation of their work and not everyone knows who to send their images to. Then you have social media versus websites. With social media, I’ve treated it as a newspaper; in a way you have to commit to advertising your work. However, the internet also creates new mediums and new contributors. So now there are social media art stars and YouTube rappers. That’s just another way to get the information out there and I think if you’re savvy enough you can really kind of upend things.
Ann Prager: Well, I’m an art therapist, I have a masters in art therapy and I am just enchanted by some of these pieces and the variety. There are some that I do really wonder what they would say if they could talk, maybe they do!
Camilo: Well, it’s a great way to put it, you know? “What would they say to each other if they could talk?” There’s the visual, the tactile, different senses. People learn differently. So I would ask “I wonder what they would say if they met each other?” I also think of things in a synesthetic way—synesthesia being the confluence of the senses. It’s something that presenters like myself always think about. What will make people move through a room, and what will make people talk to each other?
Lior Neiger: Can you say something about the broader scheme of Boston and Brookline. You know, you are very committed to the city’s arts. How would you compare to New York?
Camilo: Well I think everyone should leave their hometown. In some ways because of the Internet and its democratizing nature, I don’t think there is a need to be anywhere specific in order to contribute to culture. There are major artists that live in places like Berwick, Maine! Again, it doesn’t necessarily matter. But in terms of Boston, I think wherever I am it’s important to put down roots and meet people and contribute. I found Boston and Brookline very interesting because of the conglomeration of learning. I mean, yes, “academia” is kind of a rough word. But it’s about people coming here to learn, and that’s what really interested me.
Lior Neiger: But when you closed your gallery, many were shocked because you closed right after another major gallery and it seemed like such a meaningful conversation was being dropped.
Camilo: I don’t necessarily think of it as closing, I think of me as moving. I think of it as a transition. Samson Gallery, which you are talking about and which you can look up online at Samsonprojects.com, is something people ask me about all the time. Art commerce, again, is changing. The white cube, because of the commercialization that has been going on, is becoming a little staid.
In turn, art fairs became very important for the bottom line. People were coming into the gallery and loving the exhibitions but they were not acquiring, because of the close proximity to New York, where people would rather buy. It happened so much. But the program I wanted was about establishing mid-career and established artists.
Lior Neiger: Well I think you are a genuine and very brave man.
Camilo: Well I think I did well. For me the trifecta is press, sales, and exhibitions. Knowing people who can activate these cohorts of artists and group exhibitions is important.
Ann Prager: Do you have any idea of the direction you want to go in for your own growth?
Camilo: No, not really. As a presenter of art, I can’t really think about my direction per se. It’s about the direction of the audience; what does the audience need?
Kim Rice: That’s a hard call! So you see yourself in a nomadic situation, and it seems like you have these relationships with people all over the US, so you just go into these spaces and assess the need of those areas?
Camilo: Yes. Again, as I said, you have to include local artists, I like to include international artists as well, and you can’t forget that all of these places have schools. You have to consider schools because they’re a built-in audience. I have also been collaborating and commissioning curators, who themselves have relationships with different artists.
Dorothy Englander: How do you feel about artists making political art?
Camilo: Well, I think making art in general is political. For anyone to think that they have the confidence to create a unique object and then put it out into the world? I mean, yeah. That’s a political move.